Entry 0253: Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas (XIX) The Reasonableness of Faith
The contribution of Saint Augustine to the systematization of
knowledge by belief was well known to Saint Thomas Aquinas.
In the General
Audience of 21 November 2012, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the issue of the
reasonableness of faith and he credited Saint Thomas Aquinas for having shown
the benefits derived for reason when the human mind applies itself to the
comprehension to God’s truth. Saint
Thomas showed "how much new fruitful vitality
comes to rational human thought from the ingrafting of the principles and truths
of the Christian faith."
In his Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
on 8 November 2012, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, commented on the value
of analogy for the philosophical, theological, and scientific understanding of
nature. Here are excerpts from the Holy Father’s Address:
“An interdisciplinary approach to complexity shows
that the sciences are not intellectual worlds disconnected from one another and
from reality but rather that they are interconnected and directed to the study
of nature as a unified, intelligible and harmonious reality in its undoubted
“Such a vision has fruitful points of contact with
the view of the universe taken by Christian philosophy and theology, with its
notion of participated being, in which each individual creature, possessed of
its proper perfection, also shares in a specific nature and this within an
ordered cosmos originating in God’s creative Word.
“It is precisely this inbuilt ‘logical’ and
‘analogical’ organization of nature that encourages scientific research and
draws the human mind to discover the horizontal co-participation between beings
and the transcendental participation by the First Being.
“It is within this broader context that I would
note how fruitful the use of analogy has proved for philosophy and theology,
not simply as a tool of horizontal analysis of nature’s realities, but also as
a stimulus to creative thinking on a higher transcendental plane.
“Precisely because of the notion of creation,
Christian thought has employed analogy not only for the investigation of
worldly realities, but also as a means of rising from the created order to the
contemplation of its Creator, with due regard for the principle that God’s
transcendence implies that every similarity with his creatures necessarily
entails a greater dissimilarity: whereas the structure of the creature is that
of being a being by participation, that of God is that of being a being by
essence, or Esse subsistens” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Pontifical
Academy of Sciences, Rome, 8 November 2012).
Entry 0251: God's Existence versus God's Actus Essendi
is well known that the question “Does God exist?” had an affirmative answer before
the time of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The discovery of the notion of actus essendi was not needed to put to
rest the issue of God’s existence. The historical path of the philosophical
demonstration of the existence of God is the historical path of a judgment of
existence applied to God.
issue of the definition of the essence of God in terms of the metaphysical
principle of actus essendi, on the
other hand, is not only an issue different from the issue of God’s existence,
it is also an issue that took a different historical path in its development.
Aquinas was indeed able to express the human intellect’s awareness of the real
in the technical terminology of the actus
essendi, but there is no question that before the discovery of the notion
of actus essendi, answers to the question “Does
God exist?” had been given in terms of a judgment of existence.
In his understanding
of esse, Aquinas distinguished
clearly between the esse that answers
the question of existence (the question an sit) and the esse
that connotes the metaphysical principle of actus
essendi. And here something that may seem obvious needs to be emphasized.
After the discovery of the notion of actus
essendi, the issue of how to reason and conclude correctly about God’s actus essendi is not to be confused with
the issue of how to reason and conclude correctly about God’s existence.
Entry 0250: Actus Essendiand the Second Operation of the Intellect (II)
is no question that according to Aquinas the notion of being possesses a
duality. The notion of ens (quod est) signifies a “thing” by the
expression quod and “existence” (esse) by the expression est.
this issue, Jan A. Aertsen puts Etienne Gilson and Cornelio Fabro in the same
category: “An important element in the interpretation of Fabro and Gilson is
that ‘being’ possesses a certain duality. Ens
means ‘what is’ (quod est). It
cannot, therefore, be attained by simple apprehension, which abstracts only the
essence or quiddity of something.” At this point Aertsen adds, “Yet Thomas’
conclusion seems to be a different one” (J. A. Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals: The Case of Thomas Aquinas
[Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996], 179-180).
seems to be aware that Fabro does not place the apprehension of ens and esse in the second operation of the intellect. Thus Aertsen writes:
“If the notion of being, Fabro argues, includes in itself two elements, namely
essence or content and the act of being, this notion cannot be the effect of
‘ordinary’ abstraction, which abstracts only essence. The origin of the notion
of being requires a form of ‘conjoint apprehension’ of content on the part of
the mind and of act on the part of experience” (Ibid. 175). But this
explanation, according to Aertsen, is not a satisfactory one.
argues more forcefully against the thesis of ‘Existential Thomism’ that ‘being’
is attained only in judgment, the second operation of the intellect.
examines carefully Aquinas’ understanding of the two operations of the
intellect: “Thomas claims that what is first in the first operation of the
intellect, being, is the foundation of what is first in its second operation:
the principle ‘it is impossible for a thing to be and not to be at the same
time’ is dependent on the understanding of being. Here he clearly affirms that
the concept of being belongs to simple apprehension.” Aertsen then stresses
that “This statement contradicts the contention of ‘Existential Thomism’ that
the concept of being is a judgment or proposition” (Ibid. 179).
“Ens names a thing from the formality of
its act of being: it primarily signifies ‘what is.’ Thus,” Aertsen continues,
“the concept of being does not signify the judgment ‘something exists,’ the
kind of composition which is susceptible of truth or falsity” (Ibid. 180).
conclusion is that the thesis of ‘Existential Thomism,’ that ‘being’ is
attained only in judgment, the second operation of the intellect, is incorrect.
‘Being’ is attained in simple apprehension. The concept principally signifies
‘what has being,’ ‘what is,’ a phrase that does not entail a judgment” (Ibid.).
stresses that the name “being” signifies “what is” but does not signify a mode
of being (an essence or a quiddity) determined by the genera. “This generalness
and indeterminateness,” Aertsen affirms, “is one of the reasons Thomas advances
for his view that ‘being’ (Qui est) is
the most proper name of God. Summa
Theologiae, part I, question 13, article 11: Quolibet enim alio nomine determinatur aliquis modus substantiae rei,
sed hoc nomen Qui est nullum modum essendi determinat, sed se habet
indeterminate ad omnes” (Ibid. 180, n. 55).
explains that in Aquinas’ De veritate,
in question 1, article 1, ad sed contra
3, “in answer to an objection that cites an axiom from Boethius’ De hebdomadibus, ‘to be (esse) and what is (quod est) are diverse,’ the ratio
of being is explicitly formulated. Thomas’ explanation of the axiom is that the
act of being (esse) is distinguished
from that which that act belongs. ‘The ratio
entis, however, is derived from the act of being, not from that to which
the act of being belongs’” (Ibid. 185).
shows clearly that ens and esse are the object of simple
others, Antonio Millan Puelles endorses Jan A. Aertsen’s assessment of Existential
Thomism. See A.
Millan Puelles, La Logica de los Conceptos
Metafísicos: Tomo I - La Logica de los Conceptos Trascendentales (Madrid:
Ediciones Rialp, 2002), 154.